We are going through one of the most turbulent economic times this country has seen in decades. There's hardly a week nowadays that we don't hear at least several companies laying off employees. Since December 2007, the number of unemployed persons has grown by 3.6 million. However, the nuclear industry is one of the few industries in this country that is actually expanding during these turbulent times. A lot of the recent job growth in the nuclear energy industry was stimulated by the 2005 Energy Policy Act.
NEI has been keeping close tabs on expansion in the nuclear energy industry. As of the end of 2008, we estimate that private investment in new nuclear power plants has created an estimated 15,000 jobs (pdf, check out pages 4-6 for the list of companies). From page 1:
Over the last several years, the nuclear industry has invested over $4 billion in new nuclear plant development, and plans to invest approximately $8 billion in the next several years to be in a position to start construction in 2011-2012.We've analyzed the number of workers it takes to run equivalent sized nuclear, coal, gas and wind plants. Below is what we've found. (These are direct jobs and don't include the construction and manufacturing sectors which would boost all the numbers even higher):
(Ventyx, formerly known as Global Energy Decisions, provided the data for coal, gas and nuclear which is based on a huge FERC form that regulated utilities are required to submit once a year. The wind data is calculated from numbers on page 209 in DOE's "20% Wind Energy by 2030" report (pdf).)
Job opportunities in the nuclear energy industry are huge and diverse. The industry employs ten different types of engineers, eleven different types of professionals and twelve different types of technicians and skilled trades workers. If anyone would like more of this information, check out our website.
The Potential for More Growth
Right now, Congress is debating and crafting a "stimulus" package to get the U.S. economy going again. The underlying goal for this stimulus is to create jobs. We can think of no better way to do that than to support the resurgence of nuclear power. Members of the Senate agree.
The Senate Appropriations committee voted (pdf) to include $50 billion in loan volume for the existing loan guarantee program (which includes renewables, advanced coal-based systems, transmission, energy efficiency, advanced nuclear projects and others) as well as $95 billion in loan guarantee authority earmarked solely for commercially proven renewable energy projects and the transmission lines necessary to bring that renewable energy to market. This financial support will help build investor confidence in the prospects for new nuclear power plants and other advanced technologies.
Some observers criticize loan guarantees as a "handout." They are not. If the loan guarantee program works as it should, taxpayers won't pay a cent. In fact the government could turn a profit (information on how loan guarantees work can be found here (pdf)). The loan guarantee ensures equitable sharing of risks since much of the risk derives from a new, untested regulatory process enforced by the government's own nuclear regulator.
Here's some ammo for pro-nuclear bloggers to show that the nuclear energy industry is great for job growth, great for the economy and great for the country, and that the U.S. Congress should include loan guarantees for all advanced energy technologies (like new reactor technology) in its package to stimulate the economy!